Educational Garden for Urban Community School

The Urban Community School (UCS) recently collaborated with the Cuyahoga Land Bank to acquire land to develop a Learning Garden.  UCS will be partnering  with The Cleveland Botanical Garden, to offer unique educational lessons for students and teachers alike.Land Bank Staff
Since 1968, UCS has been educating children from preschool through eighth grade on Cleveland’s West Side.  Serving primarily low-income families, UCS has expanded to accommodate over 400 students per year. The school has been recognized as a model for urban education and was the first school in Cleveland to receive The Excellence in Education Award from the U.S. Department of Education.
The school has been acquiring parcels of land for its continued expansion since 2007. Chief Operating and Development Officer Thomas Gill, who once interned at the Cuyahoga Land Bank, was familiar with its innovative programs. Thomas connected with the Cuyahoga Land Bank and began acquiring lots surrounding the school’s campus. This past year, in addition to other renovations to the school, work began on “The Garden Initiative.”
UCS is hoping to fully integrate the half-acre Learning Garden into the 2015-2016 school year curriculumLand Bank Staff .  The Learning Garden will give students the opportunity to nurture plants as they grow from seeds.  The Learning Garden will provide a hands-on learning experience and an opportunity for children to literally see the fruits of their labor. A Cleveland Botanical Garden instructor will work with students and faculty on teaching the garden curriculum.
“The Cleveland Botanical Garden made sense as a collaborator because they understand how to design a curriculum to teach children life lessons,” said Gill.
The design of the gardens came from a visioning session made up of students and teachers with the Cleveland Botanical Garden.  “We want it to be a place that is imaginative and creative, while learning about gardening,” said Anne Juster, Director of the School Garden Partnership at the Cleveland Botanical Garden.  “My hope is that it will be a model for other schools in the region.”
The Learning Garden will eventually be a year-round classroom that will provide opportunities for students to learn about plant life and vegetation throughout each session. It will have a diverse curriculum made up of history, business, and gardening skills including harvesting produce and managing food production.
In addition to the academic lessons, the garden will also teach students about patience and responsibility.  “It’s not enough to build a garden, you have to have the right staff in place to take care of it,” said Juster.  “Gardens take time.”
The Learning Garden will have many exciting features, including a natural fence of trees, motion sensitive lighting, a compost station, rain barrels, outdoor classroom space, a sunflower garden and a pumpkin patch.
For more information on Urban Community School and its programs, please visit its website.
For more information on the Cleveland Botanical Garden and the many learning programs it offers visit its website.

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